My notes on The Prey Legend of Karnoctus- now out digitally in the US.
I once wrote an edition of my Empire column covering five or six films called The Prey or Prey and available to rent, buy, stream, download or nod off during that month. With typical hubris, I figured that now I’d pointed out the duplication, filmmakers would lay off calling their films The Prey or Prey and come up with something catchier. A month later, the Dutch lion-on-the-loose film Prooie came out in the UK under its international release title Prey. And now there’s a Predator prequel called Prey on the streaming horizon. Plus this item – called The Prey in its opening credits and The Prey Legend of Karnoctus during the (very long) end credits montage.
Apparently, the bulk of the film was shot nine years ago, but it’s only just been finished – with tipped-in guest stars who never manage to interact with the key cast. It’s scrappy nonsense, but not terribly unlikeable – though the list of cavils about plot, logic, character and action beats is as long as the list of films from which a whole lot has been lifted. What you get is a low-rent melange of Predator, The Losers, Three Kings, Camel Spiders (remember that one?) and Beast From Haunted Cave. It’s jazzed up by comic book key art and storyboarding to top and tail the film, but keeps tripping over things like a newspaper headline which misspells the name of a very well-remembered real politician.
In Afghanistan in either 2013 or 2021 but with no mention of current events like the withdrawal of NATO troops or the return of the Taliban, a Special Ops team who may or may not have gone rogue stage a heist on a stash of coffins containing a mcguffin which the film doesn’t explain until near the end and plan to hide them in a cave while waiting for the helicopter to airlift the loot out of the country. Unfortunately, it’s the very same cave – the mouth is, of course, Bronson Canyon in LA’s Griffith Park – where ‘Afghan Sasquatch’ lurks and has just killed some terrorists who were brewing up a hallucinogen perhaps as a bioweapon.
Tagger (Nick Chinlund, aka the guy you get after Stephen Lee passes) and Reid (Kevin Grevioux, deep-voiced veteran of the Underworld series – which he co-created) are separated from Vega (Danny Trejo) and Gunnar (Adrian Paul) – perhaps because Trejo and Paul signed up for the reshoots – and fall in with a column of naïve grunts who have been passing a pre-battle yomp by chatting about their favourite retro games and comic book characters. The survivors of a messy firefight, including obvious final girl type Lake (Masika Kalysha, who is good), get stuck in the cave and killed off one by one Predator-style. To string things out, some dolt opens a canister of gas and everyone starts hallucinating – seeing shafts of light that might lead to freedom, Vegas showgirls, their cute relatives, etc (the funniest is the guy who sees Lake not in her battle gear but soldier girl pin-up kit complete with hairdo and make-up).
The monster Karnoctus (which doesn’t sound like an Afghan name to me) looks like a bigger, four-eyed version of Fluffy, the toothy hairy thing in the crate in the Hal Holbrook-Adrienne Barbeau version of Creepshow and is a reasonably engaging retro style man-in-a-suit beast, with an interesting x-ray vision POV as it pursues and rips up soldiers. Is it a cryptid? Alien? Bioweapon? Transformed soldier? The script by Matthew Hensman (who co-directed with Cire Hensman) and Gustavo de la Peña is uninterested in even debating the beast’s origins but holds back the what’s-in-the-coffins reveal for the very end as if it were going to be a big twist and relevant to the plot (it’s not). For a patchwork mess, which signs off with a ‘to be continued’, it hangs reasonably together and I enjoyed it a lot more than the last half-dozen Asylum monster/military movies I watched. There’s an interesting patchwork score using ‘traditional Afghan music’ and samples from Vietnam-era rockin’ the delta-type oldies.
For reference, here’s the critter from ‘The Crate’.
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